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Hackers, Take the Wheel

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Hackers are always looking to take advantage of the latest technology in new and unexpected ways. The Internet of Things is making their job way easier by providing a plethora of Internet-connected devices. Among these devices is the automobile entertainment system, and, you guessed it; hackers can take control of that, too, if given the right circumstances.

Andy Greenburg, a reporter for WIRED, had the fortune (or misfortune, rather) to experience the terror of an automobile hack first-hand. In 2013, he met the researchers behind this madness: a pair named Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek. They went with Greenburg as he drove a Ford Escape around a parking lot, which he fondly recalls saying, “They sat in the backseat with their laptops, cackling as they disabled my brakes, honked the horn, jerked the seat belt, and commandeered the steering wheel.”

Getting your car hacked in the parking lot by hackers in the backseat doesn’t sound so bad, but what if this happens remotely while you’re driving on the highway? Two years later, Greenburg experiences this terror firsthand.

Miller and Valasek asked Greenburg to take a drive down Interstate 64 in his Jeep Cherokee. Granted, he knew what the pair was up to, but he wasn’t sure when to expect the hack. Before taking a cruise, the researchers assured Greenburg that they wouldn’t do anything life threatening; a simple statement, but complicated due to the unpredictable nature of driving a vehicle.

Within moments of hopping on the highway, Greenburg’s vehicle seemed to have a mind of its own. The air conditioning went out of control, the windshield wipers went haywire, and his hearing was viciously assaulted by Kanye West’s music. To add insult to injury, they also cut the transmission and the brakes, bringing Greenburg’s not-so-joyful ride to an end.

Amazingly, the researchers performed all of these hacks remotely, without direct access to the vehicle. Miller and Valasek targeted the Jeep’s entertainment console and used it to control various parts of the vehicle, such as the dashboard, steering wheel, brakes, and the transmission. Even though this code is only in the possession of the researchers, it’s only a matter of time before hackers figure out how to leverage a similar code to commit unspeakable crimes.

Following this troublesome vulnerability being exposed, Chrysler recalled affected Jeep Cherokees, though they weren’t able to locate a definitive defect. Either way, such a drastic stunt only proves how technology is pushing toward greater communications without paying equal attention to security. In order to avoid this “crash and burn” aspect of The Internet of Things, it’s imperative that action is taken now before it’s too late.

Thus, the responsibility of protecting your organization’s infrastructure falls upon your shoulders. It’s up to you to keep threats out of your network. Integrating a comprehensive security solution can be helpful, but it’s often not enough to eliminate problems altogether. Tektonic can help your business maximize security without sacrificing the functionality of your infrastructure. Give us a call at (416) 256-9928 to learn more.

Date: August 17th, 2015, Author: Jorge Rojas

Toronto IT Support  /  Tektonic Blog  /  Security  /  Hackers, Take the Wheel